Fans of Jeter and Mantell’s earlier books will find more of the same here.

FAIR BALL

Crises loom when a close friend suddenly turns standoffish, and the distraction affects young Derek’s play on the field.

Exemplifying No. 4 of Jeter’s Life Lessons, “The World Isn’t Always Fair,” the episode chronicles the drive to a citywide Little League trophy. The story acts as a platform for homilies about coping with bad breaks in baseball (and therefore life), frequent expostulations about fairness, and discussions of diversity with allusions to racial and class prejudice. Disturbed and angry that his wealthy, white friend Dave is abruptly avoiding him, Derek has such trouble keeping his head in the game that he whiffs at the plate and even muffs a play on the way to a playoff loss. It’s only a setback, though, and so amid pep talks and heroic plays capped by a walk-off inside-the-park home run, he goes on to lead the Indians (a team name that passes without comment here) to ultimate triumph. Meanwhile Derek defends a frenemy from bullies at school, studies for his finals, turns 11, and, with little sister Sharlee, absorbs the message that differences should be celebrated. The problem with Dave, which turns out to stem from a parental command to steer clear of the biracial, middle-class Jeters, is solved with an air-clearing tête-à-tête between the moms, and by the end everyone is looking forward to an awesome summer.

Fans of Jeter and Mantell’s earlier books will find more of the same here. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9148-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Jeter/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety.

THE GOLDEN SWIFT

From the Silver Arrow series , Vol. 2

Children with magical talking steam trains are thrilled by their clever new plan to rescue endangered animals.

Eleven-year-old Kate absolutely adores her secret job—helping animals in need by using the magical locomotive that was a gift from her billionaire wizard uncle. Kate loves riding the Silver Arrow with Uncle Herbert; her brother, Tom; and the talking animals they escort to safe places. But now Uncle Herbert is missing, 9-year-old Tom seems more interested in hapkido than their supernatural train, and Kate’s struggling socially and academically thanks to her eco-anxiety. No matter how many animals she helps, no matter how many adults proclaim that climate change is a critical issue, the environment keeps getting worse. One night Kate discovers another train driving on the magical railroad: The Golden Swift is conducted by her classmate Jag, who thinks rescuing stranded creatures isn’t sufficiently radical. When Kate joins him, she feels more inspired and more righteous than ever before. This time, she’s actually making the world better! Kate’s unhappy discoveries of unintended consequences and the moral complexities of her activism are softened by humor. The snarky banter of the talking locomotive is an understated delight, as is the train constructed with, among others, candy and ice cream cars, an invisible car, and a dojo car. Kate and Tom are White; Jag is described as having dark skin and black hair and possibly being Indian. Charming illustrations enhance the text.

Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-28354-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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